Call me an idealist (you’re an idealist), but once in a while it’d be nice to see a human with some political power doing something for the vast majority of other humans. Most politicians sure know how to talk jive and make very fancy promises, but once their power is secure, the rest of the species seems a vague, numerical entity to them. The world of science once told me that human beings haven’t evolved to hold more than one hundred humans in their heads at once, and this seems rather problematic for any creature with their hand over a button entitled, “world goes to shit.”
My editor asked me to write about “arm-wrestling as a form of political resolution.” As I see it, the general method for resolving most conflicts is not too much higher on the mental food chain than this very activity. You’ve all seen large men with baby-sized biceps arm-wrestling; it’s brute force versus brute force. Not necessarily the most intelligent form of conflict resolution, it does prove to be a matter of not only your own strength but also knowing when the opponent is weakened enough to deliver the crushing defeat. Then many beers are shared, even among the players in this barbarian’s muscle coliseum.
Again, I’m being an idealist and a critic here, but big-ass bombs and tanks and shit don’t strike me as being that much different from enormous biceps. In a way, they’re simpler, as we don’t even have visceral connections to them. A bomb can simply evaporate a bunch of innocent folks, while no human with a spear could possibly do that much damage. Politics suffers from humans being unaware of our own deficiencies in dealing with massive populations of people, and rarely do we see acts of compassion from the big heads of stuff because their money and material business brains are acting real powerfully.
But in a weird way, arm-wrestling would be a great way of resolving political conflicts both at the micro level and the huge-normous international level. Instead of hurling random people with weapons at each other (not to mention airplanes, guns, tanks, missiles, nukes, other bombs, other guns, more people, wastes of resources that could easily go to poor folks, medical care, sustainability, and poor folks again), two world leaders would sit at a table, hold hands like men, and use their damn muscles instead of the combined muscles of an often unwilling, suffering country. Then, after a hearty bout of limbs, these same political figureheads would share some brews and hash out their differences face to face. A good arm-wrestle breaks down barriers and allows for an honest conversation. It may sound crazy, but one arm-wrestling fight probably has more emotional truth than the majority of political proceedings.
The problem is when the same mentality of one dude versus another dude gets blown up into the form of all out war. At the psychological level, one of these wars can be followed back to their sources, and at the birthing places of these events are small groups of humans who should be hashing out stuff human on human, instead of with the incredibly huge symbolic and life-destroying clashing of militaries. A politically powerful human should handle disputes themselves, it’s their individual duty to either be violent or peacefully resolve a problem. The rest of us don’t have to be swept up in what amounts to the theatrics that stand in for honest, creature-to-creature conversation or a little test of strength.
Because it’s the beers afterwards that really make the ritual work. At the heart of it, an arm-wrestling contest is pretty silly, and most conflicts begin with a silly desire that is very personal. True, countries need resources and there are problems, but if one powerful creature needs another powerful creature to help in collaborating to make the world awesome and not shitty, couldn’t a beer or two and a healthy guffaw over how ridiculous the competition was in the first place replace massive destruction? I’d hope so.