Wisdom’s Where You Find It…

The Water Tribe has warriors. The Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom have soldiers. The gap in ethics and acceptable tactics between the two can be as wide as the Great Divide…

This is a quote from a fan fiction (ch 23) of a cartoon. (“Fan Fiction”– ever read a story or watch a show and wish that there was another book or a new episode? That’s what this is– “fan” produced new material. Warning, follows the “90% of anything is crud” rule.) A cartoon I wouldn’t be upset to let my daughter watch, although we’ll have some discussions about when actions are acceptable….


I kind of bumped off of this over at Marcel’s place, objecting to a guy talking about how villages run on honor, not coin. A village is a really small town– I think he may have meant a family complex, a clan, a tribe, something like that. You get a “village” when the leather-worker, the baker and the smith put their houses together because they don’t need room to do their stuff and it’s easier for them to get supplies that way; you get a family complex when great-grandma had a lot of kids that survived, and you are all working the land. Generally called a family farm, although there’s ranching, and it doesn’t fit the modern “corn farm” notion of doing just one crop. (I can’t even imagine… even cattle farms usually do something else, usually farming something they can hay for the cows to eat. You’ve got to be REALLY big to manage doing just one crop, be it animal or plant!)

If you enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender, I suggest you read the story. Well, if you’re conservative, anyways; there’s a bit too much “different cultures really are freaking different” for liberal viewpoints to go over well.)


4 thoughts on “Wisdom’s Where You Find It…”

  1. Full quote:
    A/N: The Water Tribe has warriors. The Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom have soldiers. The gap in ethics and acceptable tactics between the two can be as wide as the Great Divide… which is an episode worth looking at more closely. Instead of comparing notes on the two Earth Kingdom tribes, Katara and Sokka are each fiercely partisan toward the people who fed and sheltered them. And Katara's been in Ba Sing Se for a month, dependent on the largesse of people who, Long Feng implies, are hurting Aang by keeping Appa away from him. The cognitive dissonance, plus reminders of her mother in the time of year, has to be twisting her right around the bend.

    On that note, let's speak of madness… and evil.

    In the very first episode, Sokka refers to midnight sun madness. In fact, humans have an extremely difficult time dealing with polar winter and summer. Your average person needs a fairly steady day and night cycle to stay healthy. It's built into our biology, in the form of the circadian rhythm (alias, the biological clock). Someone whose ancestors came from more southerly climes moving to, say, Alaska, puts a fair amount of stress on their body. That can exacerbate all kinds of bad things, such as heart disease and mental illness.

    Some northern people, such as the Inuit (Eskimos), can get around that particular stress, because their biological clock is broken. Physically, the months of complete darkness and midnight sun of summer have far less impact on them.

    Mentally, though, is a whole 'nother Pandora's Box.

    The legend of the Wendigo, a fearsome, once-human cannibal, originated around the Arctic Circle for good reason. Wendigo is as valid a diagnosis in the Far North as fox madness is in Japan, or changeling was in Ireland and Scotland up into the 1800s.

    And susceptibility to mental illness often runs in families.

    Follow, if you will, the chain of logic. Fred down the road killed his neighbors and ate them. Most of us would agree Fred is Evil. The solution, in a world without insane asylums, is obvious: Kill Fred. Problem solved.

    Except ten or twenty years down the road, Fred's children crack, and also become cannibals. Whoops.

    Now add, oh, a few centuries of observation and oral tradition that gee, this happens over and over…

    Tribes are built to survive, on the ragged edge. Never mistake tribal for nice. Tribes can't afford nice.

    And so, consensus emerges: Evil people have evil children. Handle the problem. Before good people die.

    Zuko does not see the world the way the Water Tribe does. By Katara's standards, Zuko is insane.

    Interestingly, this would affect the Northern Water Tribe far less than the Southern. Despite its name, the Northern Tribe can't be nearly as close to the North Pole as the Southern is to the south. In the opening eps of Avatar, the sun never sets, indicating complete polar summer when it's still weeks before their (southern hemisphere) summer solstice. The Siege of the North is maybe two months after the northern hemisphere winter solstice, and yet they already have the sun coming up on a regular basis, long enough for the Fire Navy to attack for hours before withdrawing for the night. Besides waterbenders, the Northern Tribe also has politics, an indication beyond the other obvious wealth of the city that they do have spare resources; a necessary buffer if you're going to try and help someone who's ill instead of protect yourself with lethal force.

    Katara is not being immature. Katara is being very mature, by her tribe's standards. Mature women – and this is usually the women, not the men – decide who the tribe can save… and who has to die.

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