“Jessup: You want answers?!
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know… that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to! ” – A Few Good Men.
The world has changed, and we are changing along with it. Though much of human culture is now so different from the ways of our ancestors as to be unrecognizable, some things remain which remind us of the old ways. We are still tribal animals, seeking out those of like mind to ally ourselves with, or even forging our own persona to gain honor within the tribe into which we were born. This explains why so many of us dress alike, speak alike, consume the same products, listen to the same music, honor the same heroes and persecute the same villains. The tribal nature of Mankind causes us to form groups, and though the integrity of our many tribes has been undermined by globalization and cultural uniformity, we still prefer the company of those who are like ourselves. This is why many people refuse to set aside their racial prejudice or their mistrust of foreign cultures. It can’t be helped, we have developed from the ape into Man, but much of the ape remains. And apes roam in packs.
Permit me to speak in metaphor to elucidate my point. Most of us live within the relative safety of a polis, a City. The city isn’t perfect, nor are the people who dwell within it. Let’s not pretend that we’ve built a utopia. Within our city we have problems, but they are our problems, and it is our city. It is built upon the bones of our ancestors. This city has walls, and beyond the walls there are wolves, there are bears, and there are bandits. But it isn’t the walls that keep us safe. It’s the men who stand upon the walls. The men who go out beyond the walls so that we can stay safe inside them. The truth is that whether you admit it or not, whatever the reason, whether we deserve it or not: we have enemies. Just who “we” are and who are the “enemies” which oppose us is no simple matter in itself anymore. Time was where we all would have known within which tribe we stood. But the modern world is a globalized collective of individuals. There are gangs outside the walls who are ideologically opposed to our way of life and to everything that we stand for. Many of these gangs want to convert us to their way of thinking, some want to subjugate us as their thralls, others want only our destruction.
In the “Song of Ice and Fire” series of books upon which the television series “Game of Thrones” is based, there is an actual wall to protect the realm from the threat of the Outsider, the Other, and what he represents. The Nights Watch stand guard upon the wall to keep the Outsider where it belongs. Outside. But let us not give in to xenophobic fear. The outsider may not be a savage or a maniac. The outsider may be just as deserving of life and prosperity as any of us within the wall. But the Outsider is outside because he is not one of us. He does not stand and fight for the things for which we stand and fight. He is opposed to our customs, to the very things which make our lives worth living, so he must be chased out. He cannot be permitted to enter the secure enclosure within our walls, because he wants to destroy what we have built in here. Perhaps we deserve to be destroyed. In times such as these it is becoming easier and easier to put forth that argument. But to venture too far along that train of thought is folly. We are who we are, and we rightly strive to prolong our existence.
Occasionally, the powers-that-be will attempt to usurp control of the Men upon The Walls. Very often, they succeed, and those who have volunteered to lay it all on the line to protect the tribe are used as the combative and political tools of those who seek power. Often they manipulate the opinions of the population through the various forms of media in order to produce consent for the unjust ventures that they wish to undertake. Often, we are led to believe that some of those who dwell within our City, are actually the Outsider, and must be chased out before they bring havoc and ruin upon us. Determining who belongs inside our walls and who does not is not as easy as it might seem. The Men on the Walls have a noble and worthy role to perform, but when they become misled and subjugated by corrupt and power-hungry politicians and their corporate bedfellows, the Man on the Wall becomes a pawn and his honor is traded away so that others might profit.
In this, the age of multicultural globalization, the number of Outsiders seems to dwindle. We are more open and welcoming to foreign cultures and different modes of living than we have ever been. This is not a problem, until those different styles of living threaten the security of what we have built inside the walls. Many members of other tribes may safely be welcomed within our walls and given the freedom to roam the city at will. This is usually a beneficial relationship which often leads to cultural alliances and mutual strength. But this can only be the case when the other tribesmen are not ideologically opposed to the manner in which we govern our city. In such a case, these tribes are the Outsider. They are Others. There are some groups who can never be permitted within our walls. They resent our culture and actively seek to destroy it and bring us to ruin. No matter what their own circumstance or the reasons for their hatred toward us, they work against us, and as such they are our enemies. Whether we wish to fight them or not. I list some examples: A member of ISIS could never be in my tribe. Not as long as I draw breath and posses the strength to cast him out. Neither could a Boko Haram. A pedophile. A traitor. A mass murderer. A rapist. A politician who’s been revealed as corrupt. Place me in a room with a jihadist and there will be blood. Men such as these stand for ideals that I actively oppose. Some of them call for my execution. They consider me an enemy, and I treat them as such. I could not peacefully permit Jihadis throwing gays off of the tallest buildings in my city. I don’t want to find myself playing witness to the women of my homeland buried to the chest in sand while rabid men throw jagged stones into their faces. These are just a few examples of the groups who, in my opinion, belong outside our Walls.
Much has been said of US Navy Seal Chris Kyle since the release of the movie and book entitled “American Sniper“. Many regard Kyle as a hero. Others call him a cold blooded killer who hated his enemy and enjoyed taking their lives. I say those two opinions could be debated all day long, but are irrelevant in the context of this particular discussion. Chris Kyle was a man on the wall. He spent over 1000 days in a war zone. He suffered much and caused much suffering. He makes it clear, and I’m inclined to believe him, that he did what he did to protect his brothers in arms. This is the nature of the Man on The Wall. He must suffer, and fight, and cause suffering, all in the belief that he is protecting his brothers at his side and his family behind The Wall. The Man on The Wall cannot concern himself with the finer details of the existence of those Outside, because his only concern is protecting those under his charge, the members of his tribe, his culture, his family.
In times of prosperity such as these, we all carry out our duties with ease. How easy it is to support or denounce matters of Civil importance when there is no consequence to our actions. We can all be virtuous ideologists from the comfort of the polis, protected by our high walls and The Men who stand upon them. But most of us have never had to stand a post. Most of us are blissfully unaware of The Walls existence. Many deny The Walls existence and denounce The Men who Man The Walls as puppets, bullies, savages or worse. It is good that we should question our civilization and its agendas. The debate over civic issues of importance is essential to the existence of the tribe. But the fact that we are free to have these debates is a testament to the fact that we are relatively safe. Though we may live in security, we cannot pretend to understand the nature of our privilege until we climb the ladder and stand a post upon the Wall at the edge of our safe-zone.
” The men who formed the Night’s Watch knew that only their courage shielded the realm from the darkness to the north. Such is the price of honor. A craven can be as brave as any man, when there is nothing to fear. And we all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then, to walk the path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose. It hurts, boy. Choosing. It has always hurt. And always will. I know. “