We sometimes find ourselves in the middle of wars we don’t understand. We can be under siege long before we even find out about the attempt to starve us into surrender. Sometimes surrender is not enough, only by offering our lives will the blood debt be settled, if the enemy is implacable enough. This has been going on for thousands of years, among Wise Apes, homo sapiens.
At one time, within tribes, there were wise elders you could go to when you found yourself under attack by someone intent on destroying your good name and erasing you from society. These elders would listen carefully, ask questions, pose other questions and broker peace, except when peace was impossible, in which case they’d render a judgment. If you lyingly assassinated a fellow tribe member’s reputation you would be censured by the tribe, or sometimes sent packing.
Today we have a different system. Nowadays we must rely on self-help. Sometimes, we are told, we just have to suck it up if we find ourselves on the wrong end of somebody’s undying need to prevail, no matter what. We either pretend everything is fine, or so much the worse for us if we still have the childish need to remain in pain, just because we were treated roughly, unfairly and told to suck it up and stop being a fucking baby.
Mel Brooks’s timeless truth about empathy comes to mind, when I think about others on the outskirts of the war, quietly taking the side of the righteous aggressor by taking no side: Tragedy is when I break my fingernail. Comedy is when you fall into a manhole and die.