November 4, 2009


Miller, William Ian, Eye for an Eye (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2006) ("Humiliation aside, sometimes it is purely rational ... to pluck out that eye and chop off the hand, or take the pound of flesh from right around the heart. It means that the next time, and for quite a few times thereafter, you will not have to. People will, I bet, be very careful around such as the likes of you and will make sure they fulfill their undertakings where you are concerned. And remember: they did not have insurance as we do now, so it was all the most important that you take care to have your threats believable. That was a form of insurance against future harms that might otherwise be directed your way. In my writing on the Icelandic saga I have sought to hammer home the point that the wise bloodfeuder did not need to respond aggressively to every wrong done him; in fact, he was stupid and had a very short life if he did so. He just needed to make sure people thought him perfectly capable of avenging in blood the next offense done him." Id. at 52-53.).

Miller, William Ian, The Mystery of Courage (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2000) ("When will we know that women are accepted as official players at aggressive combative courage? It is already granted in sports, woman on woman. Some are better at delivering hits and taking them than others, and they are honored for the virtue. But what about when it is woman versus man, say, as in war? We will not know that women have made it when they win silver stars or Medals of Honor. It will be whispered that the award is suspect, infected by the politics of courage, bruited about that it was granted because she was a woman, not in spite of it or independently of it. So how will we know? The answer is fairly easy. We will know women have made it when it is fully believed that they can be subject to a court-martial for cowardly conduct. Leave it to one of Stendhal's women--Mathilde de la Mole again--to make an epigram for the occasion: 'I can see nothing conferring honor . . . except sentence of death. It's the only thing that can't be bought.' Until cowardice can be attributed to a female, without such behavior being dismissed as just coming with the territory or as so much 'femming-out' on the order of shrieking at a mouse, the old order will still govern and do its work in restricting options for women, even as it relieves them for the moment from the oppressive and anxious burden of having to live up to the demands of aggressive masculine courage." Id. at 252-253. "There has been a recent spate of books and movies that look with great nostalgia on World War II, written by or directed by those who did not fight, who now in their middle age, when it is very safe for them to indulge this kind of wistfulness, think it vaguely amiss [] that they missed out on war. Most of my social class in the United States (myself included) bought substitutes for the only war we were eligible to fight in and would no doubt do so again. So when in middle age I come at last to believe that a nation builds up a moral treasury of merit by the sacrifices of its people in war and I begin to worry, like those ancient moralists, that we grow fat, lazy, and contemptible amidst our plenty, I don't have a leg to stand on to make that claim. My father could; he fought; but he is too wise to make it." Id. at 283.).