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One of the customs of my people was called the Holmgang. It pretty much translates to “Island walk” or “walk to/on an island” and it was a form of dueling. One of the primary forms we had, actually. It was simple: a pelt or blanket is laid out on the ground and staked down, and each man must keep at least a foot on the covering. Each man was given three shields, and the matter was settled once all three shields were broken, someone was dead, or both, as a man could fight on without a shield in order to have a last chance to preserve his honor.
It was foolish, wasteful, stupid, and ever so necessary.
In some ways, I wonder if we don’t still need it.
See, I have this theory. People are more polite when there is a greater risk to being impolite. Back in the days of the holmgang, if you were rude to someone, you could literally find yourself putting your life on the line, and losing it. And that’s just if you were rude and the decided to take issue. If you behaved in a far worse fashion, you could easily find yourself there, assuming you got to the Holmgang. Sometimes fights broke out then and there.
These days, however, what do we have? Our culture has become so anti-violent, we no longer accept violence even when it should happen. As of late, I’ve been looking around for a “signature” weapon I can train with and use for self defense. But at ever turn, all of them are illegal, except for the most ineffectual of things. My lover R has a pair of collapsible batons, which though small and likely as not hardly lethal, are still illegal for her to carry.
And look at a world that such things have wrought. I read a news report today that Chicago is falling into a quagmire of unstoppable gang violence. And that in Chicago, there are 200 police officers…to fight 100,000 gang members in the city alone. Yet, in the face of these odds, when it is literally impossible for the police to handle the violence, still those who live by the law are banned from the things to defend themselves with.
But even discounting that, there’s the everyday things we deal with. I have a friend, we’ll call her J. She’s a good person, for the most part. Desires to help others. Will give the shirt off her back, or let her daughter’s father take her car, despite the fact he has not insurance or even a license to drive. To those she lets in, she literally cannot say no, and she is taken advantage of over and over again. And there is no way to stop it, no way to teach others that they should give back for the gifts they receive. It is a problem I see more and more. We claim to have friendships, but rare is it that I see as much give and take as there used to be. Some are all give, some are all take, but rare is it done in equal measure.
And people are rude, terribly, terribly rude sometimes. Not that they have reason to be otherwise. After all, what penalty will befall them? None, really. Oh, there are stories of the internet backlashing against some person for some deed every now and then, but your average person who is rude to the clerk, the waiter, the guy behind the desk or the other side of the phone line? Nothing happens. The clerk is left powerless to challenge their treatment, the waiter must deal with the overly rude guest and then pray that they do not deny him the tip that he relies on for his livelihood.
The guy behind the desk must deal with a guest that spies on people, looking in their car windows at night, and being demanding and shrill, who then turns around and demands that their privacy and person be respected. And I speak you truly, for this has happened to me in just the last days. But I tell you that respect is given when respect is received.
“But violence wouldn’t solve this!” people would cry. But I wonder. If there is a price to pay for not being nice, for not showing respect, for taking advantage of those who aid and returning good with bad, would not some shape up, and would not others fall by the sword and no longer trouble those of good nature?
It is stupid, wasteful, and sometimes foolish. But I believe…it is necessary.