I grew up reading Rex Stout books (And all sorts of mysteries, ranging from cozies to the hard stuff. Because my dad read them.)
It wasn’t till older kid started reading them recently, and I started reading him through his eyes (After he told me, “Society sure has changed!”) that I went and looked at them through … well… new eyes.
Yes, a lot of the changes were for the better. What he was talking to me about was how some things seemed so expensive/upscale in those books, but to us are the merest common place. (I don’t even remember what.) But then I went in with fresh eyes and noticed tons of things. Guys and girls would flirt in public and often on first meeting. Yes, yes, the SJW’s would tell us we’re all so much better now, but our interactions, I’d guess would seem rather bloodless to them.
But the thing I noticed the most was interpersonal violence between males. I’d noticed the same when reading For Us The Living.
Popping a guy one for saying something funny about your girl was perfectly normal. In fact, men could punch each other out and then arrive at an uneasy truth, and sometimes even progress to friends.
If those books are an accurate representation – and I have no reason to believe they aren’t – two guys engaging in fisticuffs was a perfectly normal scene.
Ah, but we’re so much better now, aren’t we? We’re so civilized. If some guy punched another guy for being rude to his girl, why, he could be taken in for assault. And if the girl is a ninny she’d leave the guy too, for icky, horrid violence, or something.
This is better, right?
You know – I’m not sure.
I mean generally the trend in society has been towards less interpersonal violence. If one is to believe memoirs and first hand accounts, getting a duel in the middle of an Elizabethan street was not all that odd. And though other things went into it (like the fact that they could no longer do inter-domain war) duels were such a popular er… pastime that the king had to make edicts against them in the France of the Musketeers.
This might be a symptom of us taming ourselves, as time goes on. We pick for people more likely to do well in a tightly packed society, perhaps.
But at the same time, it seems very long to have come in less than 100 years, from fisticuffs in the street to people being unwilling to speak out against someone else who is doing something heinous.
And we know part of this is not natural. Part of this is the enforcement of the laws on assault, the tightening of the mesh of anti-male behavior, the de-legitimization of the code of chivalry that had obtained in Western Civilization since the troubadors.
Man is no longer allowed to fight for his honor or his maiden fair, even with words or fists. Instead…
Instead we have lawyers. And girls are insulted if someone defends them. And it all rests on the law and government, and little nuisances get magnified to major issues.
Note that this change has greatly taken power out of the lower classes – as in those who can’t afford lawyers – rendering them in effect powerless and emasculated by the “upper classes.”
I suspect, though I have no proof, it has also increased the level of thug behavior to shooting, because, well, just punching someone’s lights out isn’t acceptable.
This has rendered some movies and behaviors completely opaque to today’s teens.
And since the school is teaching them things like not fighting back because all violence is bad even (particularly?) self defense, and to run screaming to the principal instead… the feeling I have is that we’re creating a nation of snitches.
My parents had a simple rule. Yes, you were absolutely allowed to come and tell them if someone was doing something wrong. But then you were a snitch, and you got the same punishment the other kid got. So you’d better be very sure that you couldn’t deal with it yourself and that it was important enough to tell.
To this day I’m thoroughly unrepentant for giving the beating of her life to the girl who threatened to tell my friend’s parents that my friend had failed her dictation again. (My friend was severely dyslexic.) Because in my eyes there was nothing – nothing – more repugnant than the sticky-sweet girls who would simper to the adults that so and so was doing bad things, and could the adults stop it, now?
I can’t help but feel that’s what this change in the standards of interpersonal violence (particularly between males) has done. It took the power out of the individual hands (and fists) and put it in the hands of authorities, to whom you have to debase yourself by snitching. And then you have to wait till they make it all right.
It’s not, you know, that people are less prone to fighting and disagreement. It’s not that people hold fewer grudges. You see them on internet forums pouring out the crazed venom of people who tell themselves they’re too civilized to hit a fellow human.
It’s just that the power of solving disputes quickly (and often physically) has been taken out of the hands of individuals and delegated to the state and, for the very rich, to lawsuits for personal injury.
Reading Rex Stout reminded me how much simpler and more egalitarian it would often be to just pop someone one – right in the nose.
When the king of France forbid his noblemen from dueling it was to concentrate power in his hands. If they could not deal with their own problems, they’d have to come to him.
It seems we’re all French noblemen now.