Many people are somewhat familiar with the term “counting coup” whether they read about it in a history book, saw a program on television or it was referenced in a film. It was when some tribes of Native Americans gave a display of courage and daring, to swoop in and tap an enemy with their coup stick and ride away. It was more satisfying than simply killing someone, easy enough to do from afar with a bow and arrow, but counting coup was cunning cleverness which boosted your pride and made for many stories to tell around the fireside.
Incidentally, it was also what got many a warrior killed initially before they discovered the deadly intentions of European invaders, the lack of understanding of purpose and meaning.
Counting coup wasn’t something just merely to do, a challenge or test: it was an urge, a necessity. There is something inside that makes you compelled to do so, and with a whoop and a cry, you were off! It’s like an itch you simply must scratch, but it’s also psychological energy that needs releasing. It’s both humour and sport, yet serious in it’s intent. Sometimes I feel the overwhelming urge to do so when something has struck me as perplexing, or silly or annoying. Tap it to see if it’s real or are they friggin’ serious.
It’s a fair question, and someone wished to know how my Native American heritage jived so well with some aspects of German society and culture.
For one: waste nothing, whether it’s energy, words, the last little sliver of soap or those plastic bottles, and several hundred other items. Let me inject here Native American ancestors, because some modern Natives can be as unconcerned with recycling and the environment as any other group of Americans. My friend Rosebud Lakota Lady is rather religious about it, as am I, because she developed the insistence on it after living in the Netherlands for several years.
Also, the succinctness of expression attracted me, comforted me, the honesty of emotion, of feelings. The way I think of it is this: among a tribe, a number of people lodged in a relatively small area, voices raised in anger can be heard easier, any slight left festering and covered with “polite” words while the heart is still angry can make for deeply infected wounds that can fiercely erupt.
Such acts or behaviour is dangerous to the people as a whole. No false faces. No polite passing words. No “Just thought I’d tell you’s” with a smile that turns to a sneer behind your back, or which is discussed derogatorily with others later. This can set person against person, family against family eventually. Again, nothing a “group living” society can tolerate if they wish to survive against pressures and outside competition for resources.
Similarly in Germany, among the people I’ve met, lived with, come to know, and it is really very general and there are rare exceptions: if someone doesn’t like something, they say so or you at least question it with an open face which awaits an answer and further rational discussion. If they don’t like something about you negatively affecting them, that you can change, they say so. If you’ve done something to inadvertently offend them or more specifically bother them, not so much as offend, they will tell you. You get it taken care of straight away. You don’t make excuses, you don’t give “nice-nasty” looks, and you certainly don’t talk about people behind their backs without being willing to recount the whole conversation or have them right there.
I can appreciate that. That’s how you keep unnecessary rifts from being formed. That’s how to you remain honest and true to yourself, as well as respecting the other person. You expect them to also tell you when you’ve done something wrong, or something they didn’t like. It’s mutual. Or you try to be. Nothing’s perfect to be sure. You make a point not to be easily offended, but if something bothers you, you consider it your obligation to galactic peace to mention it in order to have it settled as soon as possible.
That is highly opposite to the way many Americans and English speakers function. Subterfuge seems to be the rule of the day to my observation. “Nice-nasty” is a way of life. The slighting remarks, double endentres. Passive-agressive. Or the aggressive style in the first place, the cleverly worded insults, testing you. If you back down, you’re considered a coward, unequal. If you rise to the bait, you’re immature and to be fully scoffed at. If you try to question or explain anything, you are being defensive. To me it is behavior which evidences anti-social ills and something deeply wrong. I avoid it. It’s a strange illness for which there is no cure, and I don’t want to catch it.
In general I state what I think. In stating what I think or believe or will accept, it’s fully open to questions. Some people get immediately upset by that, make assumptions, snap judgements on my disposition. How very wrong and self-limiting that is! No, everyone will not get along, but I find there’s no reason to be so quick to dismiss another.
I always have questions but I’ve learned in some societies, questions to some mean challenge, aggression, doubt. They don’t even consider the question is being asked because more information is sought. It is not an effort to undermine them. Again, that’s such a strange concept to me. I am called confrontational because I ask questions, or I am called “hysterical” (which is as physically and psychologically far from me as me can get LOL) because I am passionate about some topics and I fully express myself.
If someone does irritate me, I let them know in no uncertain terms. To state it is necessary for me to then relieve myself of it. I don’t hold grudges. Also, I am at times fullly willing to “let something go” as not worth the effort to address. I can live with not knowing some things, and if I feel someone is being unreasonable or rude, I just won’t talk to them.
I take each instance as it comes, however, each interaction. Very different than a certain type that are all too often the preponderance on forum boards whatever kind they are, if they are native English speakers that is.
Just the same, I have a very distinct irreverent streak. My need to count coup resurfaces. In all honesty it sometimes makes me feel like the lone Klingon on a shipful of mostly genteel members of the Federation; or “Wind in his hair” from Dances with Wolves standing atop the bluff calling out his name. It makes me want to dance, that’s the easiest way of putting.
Forget all the pretension and postures, the little verbal digs and “high-handed” little comments people make. Life is too short to be bothered by those who are too full of themselves, their own thoughts, and little whatever-you-wanna-to-call’ems. Way too short for me to waste my thoughts, or time or honesty and good will either. The conflict is what they imagine, because it’s simply not there from my end. I’d rather have a beer at a garten and a long, slow extremely detailed conversation and become friends, or give them a whack on a head and ride off laughing.