A wonderful discussion over at Sarah Hoyt’s place got even better when the duplicitous weasel in question returned… and promptly demonstrated exactly what Sarah was complaining about.
The example of “Marquess of Queensbury” that I’m most familiar with goes by the unofficial name of The Code, and it describes an ideal for how people deal with each other on a hockey rink. Arm a dozen guys with clubs, strap razors to their feet, and toss them into an enclosed space, and it becomes a very practical matter to regulate their behavior – and rulebooks can’t do this alone. You have to have a system of social pressure passed down from veteran to rookie, teaching them “the right way to play” and “respecting the game” and all the other phrases that sound like cliché, but describe real concepts that are the only things making the game itself possible.
Despite some disagreements, there are things about the Code everyone understands – and the biggest thing is that if you disregard the Code you don’t deserve to be protected by the Code. Guys who square up and fight have a respect for each other that is never accorded to a guy who hits from behind, who fouls on purpose and away from the play, and then refuses to answer for himself.
To apply it to boxing – though I am not a fan either, I get why the sport (and similar, such as MMA) exists despite periodic attempts to outlaw it. It is an elemental test of mettle, courage, and strength. As such, it has a compelling quality. Those who do it have to have a core respect for their fellows. One of Ms. Hoyt’s commenters embedded the fight scene from The Quiet Man, so you can click that and watch a living, breathing example.
The “rules” exist in that context in the same way the rules and the Code do in hockey – to keep it a contest of will, skill, and technique. In a sport where one may legitimately damage one’s opponent during the normal course of play (it is indeed the entire point of a prizefight), it becomes even more important to have strong restrictions about low blows and such. I have seen a clip of an MMA fighter, for example, tapping out to save his opponent, who was essentially out on his feet but still trying to continue.
It was a magnificent gesture that only works because a referee then stops the fight and holds up one fighter’s hand in victory; then they hug and part as respected foes. In an alley fight it would be fatal. That brings us back around to the rules, right? They’re silly in a life-or-death fight, but without things like them, every fight must be to the death, or else to the boredom of the strongest fighter there is.
This is a big reason why the Geneva Conventions are binding only when all parties are signatories, and only when all abide by them. There may be very good moral and practical reasons to afford some of those protections in situations where they don’t apply – for example, the humane treatment of those who have been captured or who have surrendered – but on a battlefield doing it will get you killed. And too many times, those who merely disagree about politics or culture have turned that disagreement into a battlefield… and not in the figurative sense, either. Real people have really died when one subgroup has decided to stop regarding them as people at all. And this country and this culture, in this time, doesn’t get a pass. Real people really die here, too. The ones who merely have their reputations and businesses ruined are in that sense fortunate.
Our would-be elites are, of course, well aware of this, but they are at heart fantasists, and their primary fantasy is, “We will be the ones who ultimately decide what is done to anyone we choose whenever we like.” They never dream that someday they may find themselves the ones to whom other people choose to do whatever, whenever.
They know full well that behaving this way as an equal opponent will ring down the curtain on them, so they don’t actually do that – they invest their time, not in playing skill, but in become rulebook experts, exploiting this knowledge to corrupt the game itself. In effect, they seek to replace the referees, to be the ones with the power to enforce the rules, to control all outcomes and by so doing “win” every single time. That’s why they go in for the high-profile, high-influence spots: they all go into government, the media (either news or entertainment), education – seeking power itself and the means to acquire more. On a smaller level, it’s why all the really dirty players in my league are always the ones who squeal loudest about “calling it both ways” and “what about what HE just did?” It’s one of their most potent weapons. They know we care about such things, and exploit it so that we’ll let them off the hook. They will even lie and say that opposition to their cheating is opposition to rulebooks – as if they were engaged in making the world a fairer place and we’re the ones with the problem.
That’s the sign that playing against them as if they were still just one of the teams will be a losing strategy. They need to be removed, entirely, just to be able to have a game in the first place. They don’t actually care about the rule of law, much less the larger Code that any rulebook is a mere facet of. When they howl their protests, they are lying, trying to make us tap out so they can shiv us.
Once they’ve gone that crooked, we’re in a tough spot. Recall that it was Cromwell who eventually flattened the law in the case above, and as the movie itself reveals at the end, he wound up quite blown over by the winds he’d loosed upon England. How ought we to behave in such a situation? We’re not talking about theory, either – Thomas More was a real man who lost his actual head; there is no guarantee that such persecutions will not visit our shores the way they have been visited upon so many of our martyred brethren across the world in these times; and it may not just be the faithful, either, who are getting sent to camps and put to the sword. A world like that must be fought against, those who mean to build it must be stopped.
In Scripture, one of the hardest teachings is in Matthew 5:38-48. The Church has always held that this is meant to curb our appetite for revenge. Christ does not forbid us to protect our lives and our liberty. And if nobody ever stood against evil it would trample the world.
Just as certainly, if charity is never extended to those who may exploit it, true charity is impossible. The grace of God doesn’t work that way, and everyone is richer for the Father’s extravagance in this regard. In the admittedly-terrible movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for example, there’s a spot where Henry Hyde saves the day, and Dr. Jeckel, in response to thanks, says, “Let’s not make a saint out of a sinner.” But this is foolish – there is no other material out of which to make them. If faith didn’t baptize, there’d be no faith. And likewise, if civilization didn’t seek to make civilized people out of enemies, civilization would perish… which is why we can never wholly fight on their terms. We have the ultimate goal of saving our enemies. Dropping the civilized rules of ritual combats is not the same as simply becoming like the beasts of the field and savaging each other, because then the fight becomes unwinnable. There will be nobody left to enjoy the fruits of civilization if no civilized people remain.
And people call being the good guy “easy”!