⚯ Reading Notes | Notes on Attacking & Defending, from Dust of Dreams

⚯ Reading Notes | Notes on Attacking & Defending, from Dust of Dreams
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And welcome to ⚯ Reading Notes, which is a new project under [S][J][P] where I keep the notes I take on what I'm reading. These notes are written for me, so I'm not 100% sure they will make sense to anyone else.

As always, if you have any feedback about anything I produce as part of [S][J][P], please let me know.


The following is from Dust of Dreams (Book 9 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series) by Steven Erikson, pp. 1004-1007. (It is a very long book.)

The character Silchas Ruin is trying to teach Ryadd Eleis (another younger character) something. The chapter starts with Silchas saying,

‘It’s no simple thing [...] but in the world —among people, that is. Society, culture, nation— in the world, then, there are attackers and there are defenders. Most of us possess within ourselves elements of both, but in a general sense a person falls to one camp or the other, as befits their nature.’

So here, Silchas's claim is that there are two sorts of people in a society.

  1. Those who attack
  2. Those who defend

People do both of these. They attack and defend, but one of the two is more dominant, one they are better at, one that is more their style, what they do naturally without thinking about it.

‘This is not to say that aggression belongs only to those who are attacker,’ [...] ‘Far from it, in fact. […] Agression takes man forms. Active, passive, direct, indirect. Sudden as a blow, or sustained as a siege of will. Often it refuses to stand still, but launches upon you from all possible sides. If one attic fails, another is tied, an so on. […] What must be understood is this: attackers attack as a form of defense. It is their instinctive response to threat, real, or perceived. It may be desperate or it may be habit, or both, when desperation becomes a way of life. Behind the assault hides a fragile person.’

Silchas says there are different ways (styles) of attacking, but regardless of style, those who are more attackers than defenders are "fragile people." I'd rephrase this by saying people who are quick to attack are often insecure, and their propensity for attack comes from this insecurity.

‘Cultures tend to invite the dominance of one over the other, as a meas by which an individual succeeds an advances or, conversely, fails and falls. A culture dominated by attackers —and one in which the qualities of attacking are admired, often overtly encouraged— tends to Bree people with a thick skin, which nonetheless still serves to protect a most brittle self. Thus the wounds bleed but stay well hidden beneath the surface.


Cultures favoring the defender promote thin skin and quickness to take offense —tis own kind of aggression, I’m sure you see. The culture of attackers seeks submission and demands evidence of that submission as proof of superiority over the subdued. The culture of defenders seeks compliance through conformity, punishing dissenters and so gaining the sums superiority of enforcing silence, and from silence, complicity.

Here we have a more in-depth comparison of cultures/people who value attacking vs. cultures/people who value defending. In essence:

  1. Cultures/people that value attacking produce bullies who seek to show dominance over others overtly. These bullies will beat on others till they say, "uncle!" To me, this sort of culture seems to value "might makes right."
  2. Cultures/people that value defending will produce people who engage in making other people comply with norms. I think of this as more social, a "mean girls" sort of bullying.
You must also learn to devise strategies for fending off both attackers and defenders. Exploit aggression, but only in self-defense, the kind of self-defense that announces to all the implacability of your armor, your self-assurance, and affirms the sanctity of your self-esteem. Attack when you hurt, but not in arrogance. Defend when your values are challenged, but never with the wild fire of anger. Against attackers, your surest defense is cold iron.

Don't let an attacking bully push you're around, but don't go picking a fight with them.

Against defenders often the best tactic is to seethe your weapon and refuse the game. Reserve contempt for those who have truly earned it, but see the contempt your permit yourself to feel not as a weapon, but as armor agents their assaults. Finally, be ready to disarm with a smile, even as you cut deep with words.’

When a defender tries to put you on the defensive by calling you something you are not or by accusing you of something you did not do,  the best thing to do is refuse to play the part they are trying to put you. When they accuse you, they do so to make you say, "You're wrong! I'm not what you're saying I am! I've not done what you've said I've done!"

The best thing to do might be to acknowledge what you have done, even if it is embarrassing, but acknowledge it without shame. Accept their punishment as opposed to trying to avoid it. Doing this robs the punishment of much of its power.

‘In effect, you are saying: Be careful how close you tried. You cannot hurt me, but if I am pushed hard enough, I will wound you. In some things you must never yield, but these things are not eternally changeless or explicitly inflexible; rather, they are yours to decide upon, yours to reshape if you deem it prudent. They are immune to the pressure of others, but not indifferent to their arguments. Weigh and gauge at all times, and decide for yourself value and worth.’

Sometimes when someone kicks your ass. If that happens, learn from it.

Don't go looking for fights.

But if a fight is an unavoidable fight in the best way you can.  

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