Monday, August 01, 2005

Man Down

As I write, it is only a few minutes from exactly one week ago that Officer Dan Niemi of the San Leandro Police responded to a Monday night noise-and-loitering complaint and was gunned down. I can't write much about this case at this time. But I want to share some thoughts with you.

I do not say this lightly---I have at least part of an idea of what a gunshot wound can feel like and do---we've lost one of the few people in this world I would have taken a bullet for. He had gumption in spades. He just might have known more about gumptionology than I'll ever learn. He had areté, Quality, and he wasn't a big jerk about it---that's the wonderful bonus you get when you meet someone with boatloads of the real thing (see below for more on areté, or go here).

Lee Harris, in his thoughtful book Civilization and its Enemies, says that one strength of our system is "team cosmopolitanism"--we don't care where you're from, or whether your family is royalty or ragpickers; the question is, are you on the team or not? "No one here is interested in avenging the honor of third cousins twice removed," he writes. Effectively, the answers to who can you trust?, and on what basis?---are both provided a la carte, not based on clan, tribe or sib. It's not customary for human beings, on a paleo timescale. It is recent, and rare, and it makes the culture something special and worth defending.

I am reliably informed that at least one of the assailant's family was instrumental in securing his prompt capture. I want to tell this person: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for proving you're on our team. Stay strong; you too are loved--and deeply respected--for this act.

Perhaps some day I'll be able to.

areté
Richard Hooker wrote: "The most articulated value in Greek culture is areté. Translated as 'virtue,' the word actually means something closer to 'being the best you can be,' or 'reaching your highest human potential'....In the Homeric poems, areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. We can, through the frequent use of this term in Homer's poems, make some tentative conclusions about the early Greek world view. The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against individual effectiveness in the world."
In the later culture of Aristotle, areté is also explicitly linked with all human knowledge.

Yep. That'd be Dan. God bless you, Dan.
I hope I can live up to your example.
I wish we'd talked more. I miss you terribly.
Dan's family, I grieve with thee.

***

There's a sentiment from some love songs (so called -- really out-of-love songs): "you can't hurt me any more". Well, let me put the people who are Not On My Team, in this country or elsewhere, on notice. This is not braggadocio, take my word, I'm really not given to it:

You probably can hurt me some more. But you can never, ever, hurt me less; and you've already hurt me enough to reassure me of where I stand. As time goes by, more people I know and care about will die, and some might die at your hands. I'm still betting on my team. I'm betting, and I'm "all in". Better check the odds. You might even be brave, and not just some punk bouncing on amphetamine nerves and Hennessy.

But we will see who turns out to be effective in the world.

6 Comments:

Blogger Christopher said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

02 August, 2005 01:01  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

Christopher, thanks for the perky generic content-free compliments about my blog, but I do not think a link to your Corvette site is going to appear in this thread any time soon.

Rent a freaking clue.

02 August, 2005 02:09  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

PS: I can just see Dan laughing his ass off all around Heaven about the fact that *THIS* thread is the first one to be comment-spammed.

I needed a smile. So, thanks, Christopher. Now p*ss off. Wanker. :)

02 August, 2005 02:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, Dan indeed would be laughing his ass off. Thank you for a beautiful tribute that so eloquently described Dan. I could ramble on, Dan always had the patience for me that way, but I really just wanted to say thank you.

13 June, 2007 22:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

The conversations we had have a way of showing up at the funniest moments.

23 March, 2008 17:12  
Blogger emilio said...

wish i could have met the guy. i'm a friend of Carla Satra, who assisted him in several of the classes he taught, and i've talked to other folks that took his classes or knew him personally. i've only ever heard good things about him, not even a pause or sniffle that would indicate otherwise.

10 April, 2009 16:49  

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