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Medicine to Poison
Banjo and the Hobo Discuss Our Combative Soul
Sun, Sep 20, 10:48 AM (2 days ago)
[My comments are in brackets]
Empire of the Summer Moon is as fantastically interesting as it is well written.
[This is one of my favorite books. The best part was the Mexicans suckering the Anglos in as meat-shields against the Comanche, only to have the Texans turn on them.]
I few years ago I was discussing the Illiad and the conversation turned to the parts where fighting between the sides stopped and battles between only two men at a time convened (Menelaus vs Paris, Achilles vs Hector). The general consensus of the people I was speaking with was that they thought these fights were contrived because no war would stop just to let two men fight. Interestingly the people who most fervently thought these battles to be nonsense were women.
[This is actually not a natural feminine view. Females instinctively understand dueling and prize-fighting well. Such heroic opening duels are very common in ancient and medieval and pre-modern combat. They were good for a morale boost for the winning side. An archer and a crossbowmen dueled in the Holy Land in the First Crusade. Indeed, the site for the Olympic Agon was thought to be originally sanctified by a duel between two peltasts, a slinger and javelin thrower, I think. The dismissal of the heroic in combat is distinctively modern and no person is more the child of Modernity than she who benefits most from its boons.]
I held out the possibility that this might happen in societies based not on the material but something else...possibly honor but I had never read of such things until Empire of the Summer Moon. Around pages 168-170 John Salomon "Rip" Ford and the Texas Rangers with Tonkawa Indians (second batch not the Jack "Coffee" Hays first version) fought the Comanches at the Battle of Antelope HIll. It started at a small village that was all but wiped out and those that survived fled followed by the Rangers and Tonkawas. A large band of Comanche warriors appeared over a hill in full regalia. The Comanche called out the Tonkawas in single combat. Thus for half an hour the fighting was single combat much like what happened in the Illiad. This was eventually ended by the Rangers deciding enough was enough, charding and firing upon the Comanche line. Quite interesting and pretty cool eh?
[Only in slave armies is single combat discouraged. Interestingly, Alexander always raced ahead of his men—who were collective fighters, who fought in units and hated having him take risks—in order to make them fight harder, and in a siege after they mutinied, he leapt into a fort and was sorely wounded in order to punish his men. It is obvious that he yearned for this heroic expression. The best slave army of all time, The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, the ranks filled with unpaid, non-slave-owning draftees and volunteers, would and did fight to suicide for their patriarch, Robert E. Lee. But if he so much as came forward towards the fighting they would force him back. Part of this was the modern ethic of the firearms battlefield, where the leader was supposed to remain cool as the brain of the army. The other aspect is the slave mind yearning for a patriarch and insisting on taking the risk collectively. Lee seemed to think that Forest was a superior commander to himself and Forest always led from the front. So even under the crackle of musketry and the roar of cannon, the man who was regarded as one of the coolest military minds of his age, a bookish man, yearned for heroic expression.]
In a previous post you stated "[I suspect that God has subordinate deities {angels for instance} and heretical supernatural insurgents and also that such powers are parasitic to humanity and wax and wane across the ages.]"
[The more I read and reread Genesis, Job, Beowulf and the Aeneid, the more they seem in agreement that God is attended by lesser metaphysic beings which wax and wane.]
As I read Empire of the Summer Moon I was thinking about a similar idea. A number of times in the book it was mentioned how a village slept with no guards because the medicine man or chief deemed them safe and was attacked. Their "medicine" failed them. One must consider that these people who could "see" must have been correct enough that people would sleep without sentries upon their word. Quanah and a band of warriors went to battle because a snakey Comanche named Isa-tai said they would be immune to the white man's rifles. This of course went horribly wrong for the Commanche and later may be what kept Quanah from engaging with the ghost dance that sucked in the Sioux. What I am getting at is that their "medicine" must have worked or it would have been discarded especially by the practically minded Comanche.
[The term white, among Eastern Woodland Indians, originally meant medicine, in relations to the sacred clouds of ascension, white face paint of illumination, the sacred white dog, and the white sails of the European ships and white pages of their medicine books marked with black death marks. From Cortez, to de Vaca, to Soto to Lewis Wetzel and Liver-Eating Johnson the Amerindian view of those invaders on the point of the spear was forever framed in the metaphysic, weather as a messenger, a punishment or a curse.]
Then there came a time where it failed catastrophically. The settler's "medicine" took over. This could be seen as the changing of the guard of gods. Quanah noted this when he meditated and saw a wolf go towards Fort Sills and an eagle twice swooped near him and headed in the same direction. Quanah then took on the settler's "medicine" and became a prominent figure.
Banjo, as you alluded to in your title, our medicines, if we take enough of them are mostly poisonous.
I highly suggest Jason Reza Jorjani's Prometheus and Atlas for those interested in the possibility that the Old Testament of the Bible is a factual document.
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