Friday, April 07, 2006

Quitting the Siege Game

Today I attended the annual seminar of the Swedish Stronghold Society, Sällskapet för Svenska Borgstudier. It's always interesting and the people are very nice.

One detail got to me. We learned about a stronghold in Latvia that had been besieged by Russian troops in the time of Ivan the Terrible, the 16th century. Things started to look grim for the defenders, and they had heard stories of what it was like being captured by Ivan's troops. So someone decided they'd be better off dead. Particularly the women and children. There was no shortage of gunpowder in the stronghold.

Boom.

According to written sources, 300 women and children died in the blast. And recently, excavations have uncovered victims: the skeleton of a woman sprawled on top of the skeleton of a child. That part of the keep was never re-built afterwards.

And I suddenly realised that I wouldn't think twice myself. I'd happily shelter my kids with my body if it looked even remotely like it would improve their chances.

Wow, I guess I'm a dad!

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5 Comments:

Blogger AMber said...

Oh, you are the best of dads - makes me cry when you write about how you would protect your children. I have often thought of doing that myself, if it came to that.

08 April, 2006 17:01  
Anonymous Pär said...

With your wife coming from a culture that tends to value age more than youth, what's her opinion on parents sacrificing their lives for their toddlers?

From a strictly evolutionary perspective, this would be rather counter-productive, right?

08 April, 2006 17:42  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks Amber sweetie!

Pär, my wife runs two parallel operating systems, so I think she'd react much like myself. But two generations back her grandfolks still practiced infanticide.

From an evolutionary perspective, I think it makes sense to evolve the reflex to blindly shelter your young. You may be able to deflect damage that isn't lethal to you but which would put an end to the kids. Even if it doesn't work out in every single case, I think on average such a trait would be an evolutionary advantage.

08 April, 2006 18:52  
Anonymous Pär said...

Sheltering, yes, but fighting an attacker, for instance, to the death, not only puts your other cubs in jeopardy, but also effectively risks putting an end to your genes, on the spot.

Like you write, people were probably less lenient with children 100 years ago, as you can always have another child, but you can never get a new parent. A century, however, seems like rather short a time for any innate "paternal instinct" to change. I wonder what Foucault would have had to say about it.

I guess you're a modern dad!

08 April, 2006 20:39  
Blogger Martin said...

If I didn't know better I'd almost believe you think some of my behaviour might be historically contingent cultural conditioning! I am, of course, just like you: a piece of mindless matter, a mere multicellular automaton. (-;

08 April, 2006 20:55  

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