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    Snowball fights: theory and practice


    by Rumbold on 2nd February, 2009 at 11:23 pm    

    As someone who has never really been entranced by the internal combustion engine fad that has swept through the world in recent decades, I tend to walk most places. However, given the snow on the ground today, I, along with many others, was presented with a number of ethical and practical issues; namely, how to deal with snowballs.

    Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to examine the Just War theory, which is an attempt to regulate when a war can be fought (jus ad bellum) and what constitutes acceptable conduct within a war (jus in bello).

    When is it right to throw a snowball, and how big can it be? Should snowballs only be thrown in self-defence, or can they be deployed in a pre-emptive strike on someone who is clearly amassing an arsenal? Clearly snow left in the fridge would fall foul of jus in bello, but what about snowballs which unintentionally contained twigs or small stones? Who passes for non-combatants in such an arena?

    Yet despite the existence of Just War theory, none of its main contributors ever dealt with snowballs in the specific sense, not even Augustine, perhaps the most important philosopher in this area. Yes, it didn’t snow much in North Africa, but maybe Augustine was also a bit of a hippocrite, as he refused to even raise such questions.

    Apart from the above theory, today also provided a chance to explore the idea that ordinary citizens being armed acts as a deterrent to the criminal classes. I spent most of my time unarmed, and walked passed a number of snowball fights unharmed. Yet within a few minutes of fashioning snow into a snowball, purely to pass the time, I found myself under assault (although my assailants had kindly challenged me first- a scene reminiscent of the Medieval practice of single combat before a battle, or the Early Modern duel- although they ignored my refusal). A lesson about violence begetting violence perhaps?



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    22 Comments below   |  

    1. Amrit — on 2nd February, 2009 at 11:45 pm  

      You mean, ‘hypocrite’, dear.

      Intellectualising snowball fights? Whatever next? :-D

      ‘… walked past’?

      A very thought-provoking post!

      ‘Apart from the above theory, today also provided a chance to explore the idea that ordinary citizens being armed acts as a deterrent to the criminal classes.’

      I don’t think being armed is much of a deterrent - your own weapon can be turned on you, can’t it? That’s what martial arts are for. Besides, if your weapon gets nicked, it’s just another weapon out there on the streets, isn’t it? Great.

      ‘A lesson about violence begetting violence perhaps?’

      Or rather, violent intent begetting violence? Or had you thrown the snowball by that point? :-D

    2. Leon — on 3rd February, 2009 at 12:05 am  

      The lesson is: attack is the best form of defence.

    3. Sunny — on 3rd February, 2009 at 1:27 am  

      hah! excellent post.

      I avoided all snow fights as I had too much work to do and meetings to attend. Lazy ass

    4. Trofim — on 3rd February, 2009 at 9:00 am  

      Intellectualising about snowfights! Let me have a go too. When we used to have plenty of snow every winter, chucking snowballs, was an integral part of winter, the physical equivalent of badinage, good-natured swopping of insults and ribbing. You are expected to give as good as you get and demonstrate that you are thick-skinned and can take it without getting upset. It’s cathartic.

    5. squanderer — on 3rd February, 2009 at 9:20 am  

      Did they shout “allah-u-akbar” before they charged? Would that be construed as intent to cause damage motivated by religious anger?

      I think snowball throwers ought to be seen as potential recruits to terrorism -pent up aggression, willing and prepared to cause harm (I bet they wore headgear and gloves to cover themselves and mask their identities) as well as possessing weapons of mass destruction. (snowballs can kill you)

    6. Trofim — on 3rd February, 2009 at 9:45 am  

      Now I have to admit that I think that this metaphor could be extrapolated. For a thick-skinned person, snowballing is a laugh. For a thin-skinned person, preoccupied with insult, offence, personal slight, respect, honour, perhaps it doesn’t work so well.

    7. Rumbold — on 3rd February, 2009 at 10:20 am  

      Amrit:

      I wrote ‘hippocrite’ as a joke. Sadly, no one has got it yet.

    8. Jai — on 3rd February, 2009 at 11:08 am  

      A lesson about violence begetting violence perhaps?

      Not necessarily. You have to think about exactly why violence may be, er, begot (begat ?) in the specific situation, eg:

      -Because some people are belligerent and are looking for a fight with anyone who can “shoot back”, thereby giving an excuse to start a confrontation.

      -Because some people want to be dominant, so they will attack anyone who is also armed because the latter will be perceived as a threat to their dominance. They may not necessarily attack someone who is unarmed because such people will be perceived as being submissive/subordinate or having capitulated “by default”.

      Etc etc etc.

    9. Jai — on 3rd February, 2009 at 11:13 am  

      I don’t think being armed is much of a deterrent

      It can be if you’re better armed (and/or better at using your weapon) than your opponent. Especially if the other party prefers to only attack those they perceive as weak, unable to effectively defend themselves, or generally “easy targets”.

    10. sonia — on 3rd February, 2009 at 11:49 am  

      heh heh! its great fun, all this snow!..my dear husband (who is from oop north) thinks londoners don’t know how to make snowmen…!

      all this grinding to a halt is great fun as well..

    11. Amrit — on 3rd February, 2009 at 11:54 am  

      @ Rumbold:

      Hahaha… I have just Googled ‘Augustine’ and now I get it! :-D

      @ Jai:

      It can be if you’re better armed (and/or better at using your weapon) than your opponent. Especially if the other party prefers to only attack those they perceive as weak, unable to effectively defend themselves, or generally “easy targets”.

      True… but how often does that happen? I can’t help thinking (esp. as a woman) that a lot of people who carry weapons do so because they don’t actually know how to defend themselves otherwise… a bit like when people use dogs as protection. Martial arts, like I said! :-D I feel that not just learning self-defence, but also the philosophy behind a lot of martial arts, which is that force must be used responsibly, could help some to channel and appreciate ‘what they do’ more and reduce things like gang-formation, maybe.

      @ sonia:

      I know, ain’t it?! We Britishers need to do this kind of thing more!

    12. Sid — on 3rd February, 2009 at 12:00 pm  

      Probably. The snowman the kids and I built was beautiful but displayed the unmistakeable signs of anorexia nervosa.

    13. Trofim — on 3rd February, 2009 at 1:05 pm  

      I’ve cleared the path in front of my house, and it is clearing and drying up. My neighbours, who are German, have also cleared in front of there’s. It makes a difference for pedestrians. Nobody else on the road has, though, even though there are many young people. It says something about a lack of a sense of community in this country. And this school closing business is just over the top. In the USSR in the seventies, I remember well that schools only closed at -25 and below. Britain really is wimpish now.

    14. platinum786 — on 3rd February, 2009 at 1:46 pm  

      Rules of snowballing are simple;

      Don’t throw them at people you don’t know.

      If you must throw them at randoms make sure it’s not someone bigger than you, and make sure you smile.

      Don’t attack someone ammasing an arsenal of snowballs with one snowball. Rather escape. If you must fight, find shelter, amass your own smaller arsenal and then attack. Make sure you have a clear escape path before launching an attack.

    15. Refresh — on 3rd February, 2009 at 2:36 pm  

      Inter-school snow fights are the best, although they easily get out of hand with known incidents of disproportionality eg snow-bound rocks and even glass.

      Sad but true. I was there. I saw.

    16. Refresh — on 3rd February, 2009 at 2:46 pm  

      ‘I’ve cleared the path in front of my house, and it is clearing and drying up. My neighbours, who are German, have also cleared in front of there’s. It makes a difference for pedestrians.’

      I like that. You have just prompted me to do the same. I live on a steep hill, and I suspect it will be a day or two before we see anyone going past. Vehicles are definitely not going to make it.

    17. Jai — on 3rd February, 2009 at 5:59 pm  

      Rumbold,

      Been meaning to ask you — since you’re using military analogies in your tongue-in-cheek article — have you managed to check out any of Conn Iggulden’s novels which I mentioned a couple of months ago ?

    18. Amrit — on 3rd February, 2009 at 7:03 pm  

      Sorry, couldn’t resist - but Conn Iggulden was my flatmate’s former History teacher! He said was an ‘alright’ teacher but also a bit of an arse, who left the job the minute he got the merest whiff of success. Ah, well…

    19. Rumbold — on 3rd February, 2009 at 8:14 pm  

      Jai:

      I have started to read ‘Wolf of the Plains’. I am enjoying it, but that is no surprise, as I am always a sucker for historical fiction. Have you read any Bernard Cornwell yet?

      Amrit:

      Interesting.

    20. Jai — on 4th February, 2009 at 11:55 am  

      Rumbold,

      You’ll have lots of fun reading the Genghis novels; Iggulden knows how to write real page-turners. I have his Caesar epic too and the overall style is the same, ie. basically a historical thriller which has a very cinematic “Hollywood blockbuster” quality, with a good balance between outright blokiness and more poignant, poetic and philosophical stuff (the latter’s not suprising as Iggulden is apparently a big fan of Kipling’s poem “If”).

      There is a slight difference in the tone of the two stories as Iggulden’s Caesar is quite idealised as a hero in many ways, whereas his version of Genghis is a much cockier, lairier Klingon-type from a relatively early age (as you’re no doubt already finding out).

      I also bought Bernard Cornwell’s Arthurian “Warlord Chronicles” before xmas and have read some of the first book; he has a very different writing style to Iggulden, but he seems to be good at bringing the grittiness (and some of the barbarism) of the Dark Ages to life — it’s clearly not a sanitised PG-rated version of the legend. I have friends who’ve already read the whole epic and they speak highly of it. I thought there was a Blackadderish dry humour to some of the first person narrative too, especially his comments about that priest constantly lurking in the vicinity who clearly has major suspicions about what the guy’s actually writing about.

      *************************

      Amrit,

      That’s pretty interesting. I guess Iggulden just decided to follow his “real” interests. He is a bloody good writer and obviously has a lot of interest in some of the more epic, militaristic aspects of human history. I don’t blame him for deciding to throw out his blackboard and chalk, if writing historical sagas is what he really enjoys doing :)

    21. Trofim — on 7th February, 2009 at 5:42 pm  

      It would seem that clearing the path in front of your house could be a liability if someone slips on it afterwards. You can’t win.

      http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2009/02/dont-blame-council-clear-your-own.html

    22. douglas clark — on 10th February, 2009 at 9:58 pm  

      Rumbold,

      Without any comment from me:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7879596.stm

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