Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lines in the Dirt

They glare at each other with the righteous indignation rarely found outside the society of prepubescent boys. Then, with the toe of his shoe, one of them etches a line in the dirt. It's a challenge as clear and as formalized as the slap of a glove in dueling days.

The other boy steps over the line, and the fight is on. The beginning of the fight is clear-cut and mutually agreed upon. Such is not the case in the violent world of the orc.

Predatory violence looks a lot more like a scene I remember from a Louis L'Amour novel (I don't remember which one -- if someone knows, please post a comment). A gang of toughs had maneuvered the town marshal into the middle of the street. He told them to disperse, but they ignored him and kept talking as they gradually surrounded and closed in.

Finally, they were close enough for someone to jerk the marshal's revolver from his holster. Then they beat him to the ground and kicked him into unconsciousness. The marshal's problem was indecisiveness -- the lack of a clear-cut line that signaled him to act before it was too late.

This is the same indecision that violent predators like to foster in their intended victims. More about that in Lines in the Dirt, 2

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