I read with interest the article in the recent New Orleans Advocate, “Historically Speaking: Dueling and the Code of Honor,” in which the custom of literally killing an adversary over a trivial dispute is described.
As pointed out by Dr. Prothrow-Stith, the similarity between this historical practice and contemporary violence cannot be missed.
The documentary “Shell-Shocked” shows “New Orleans, Louisiana has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the United States. Eighty percent of the victims are black males, mostly in their teenage years.”
Although the demographics are different, the underlying processes are similar.
In both cases, verbal disputes and slights of honor disproportionately escalate into senseless death by revenge and retaliation.
From a biological point of view, anger escalating into violence is an evolutionary fossil; it is an atavistic relic of precivilization life. Conflicts must be resolved by justice.
As an educator, I know that, in every group of students, there are extremely intelligent, creative, curious, hopeful, questing minds. Our country and world need these young people to survive and solve the pressing political, technological and scientific issues of the next century. Their loss is our loss.
The Advocate article states that dueling became “antiquated and obsolete,” the last known duel having been fought more than 100 years ago. We need to make contemporary revenge killing similarly obsolete.