Monday, 27 February 2012
Book 1, Chapter 1: That Men By Various Means Arrive At The Same End
In this essay, Montaigne talks about two different ways in which people react when someone whom they have angered in the past now has the upper hand.
When we have angered someone, and then we find them 'in possession of the power of revenge', we usually act all nice and meek so that the indignant person feels sorry for us.
This is an option.
There is also another - one of 'bravery, constancy, resolution' . It is sort of the opposite of the first, but sometimes has the same effect. Lets compare, and discuss the pros and cons of each one
Quickly, some stories that may interest you:
- Prince Edward was mad at some people (called the Limousins). He decided to attack. He wasn't moved at all by the crying women and children, or the people begging for mercy. but he was so impressed by three french guys that were willing to stand up to his whole army that he changed his mind and didn't attack. Another prince also did something similar.
- Emperor Conrad attacked Bavaria, and proclaimed that the women could leave without any 'violation to their honour' and they could take with them as much as they could carry, on foot. The women came out of their houses with their husbands and children on their shoulders. The emperor was well impressed.
Now, back to the matter at hand.
Personally, 'I would sooner surrender my anger to compassion than to esteem'. I'm a softy, and so if it's me you're worried about - best be submissive.
Some consider pity a weakness. They consider it 'effiminate' to be all tender and compassionate. They want to act with 'obstinate and masculine courage'.
Bravery could also fail. The risks are obvious. If you're arrogant and cocky, you could well be punished.
It's hard to say. Man 'is a marvellous vain, fickle, and unstable subject, and on whom it is very hard to form any certain and uniform judgement'
Allow me to illustrate this fickle nature of man with another example
- Pompey pardoned the whole city of Mamertines because of one man, Zeno, who took everyone's blame, and offered to be punished for all. Yet, another man in the town of Latium offered the same to Sylla, but obtained nothing.
Now one last story to finish:
Alexander, who is very brave, entered Gaza. He was faced with the commander there, Betis, who was badly wounded, but remained proud, fierce, disdainful. Alexander was enraged that the man showed no humility. He killed him. Now, maybe this was because Alexander himself was so brave, that he found bravery to be natural and was unable to admire it in others. Or maybe he couldn't bear anyone but him being brave. Or maybe he was just really angry. I cannot say for sure, but the violent massacre that occurred that day was certainly pitiless.