Who remembers playing cowboys and indians in their childhood? I thought this was a long time ago but yesterday I saw this kid with a homemade bow and arrow, this bent branch, with a tightened rope throwing a stick as far as 5 metres... there is still hope... not everyone is looking at a 5.5" screen. 

We used to spend hours on end on the street, in our estate, 2 dozens of kids making war and peace. The game had these fuzzy rules, two bands, one of cowboys and another of indians, all heavily "armed" with bows and arrows, spears, toy revolvers and rifles for the ones that had wealthier parents, some with "real" hats and frilly trousers, and even boots, others with just chequered shirts and shorts. Most of the indians' fighting hardware was made of giant reeds (arundo donax) a very abundant material. Some were cut to rifle size and, with a few cloth pegs, could imitate a G3 machine gun we used to hear about as standard issue for the Portuguese Army in the colonial war in Africa. There were several continuity problems at the time, with machine gun vocalised sound effects, the odd Al Capone pistol and Thomson sub machine gun 50 round magazine (yes there was one of those too)

The rules of the game I can remember, were similar to a collective hide and seek. The indians would go and settle camp somewhere, then the cowboys would follow on a scout job trying to track and ambush any random indian they could find. If an indian was ambushed at less than say 5 paces (s)he had to stop. The rule was reciprocal. If the distance was bigger, then the potential hostage could run away back to the camp or quarter. Everyone was a referee on this matter, always resolved promptly by both parties.

And then the shout of "Hands up!"... surprising the potential captive... followed by the question:

"Do you surrender?"

No answer was required for this question. Surrendering, becoming a captive or prisoner was an inherent part of the game. Sometimes picked up by the arm, others with the wrists tied with rope for more authenticity, others with handcuffs (continuity fail again...) There was even this case when two were captured and, as there was not enough people to bring both, one was tied onto a tree and soon forgotten, in the heat of the battle. He was released, in tears, much later by an adult passer-by.

It was just like that, no arguing, just surrender, trust the captor, becoming a captive was part of the game, without it there was no reason to play it.

Why all this? Let's roll on 50 years later, now! I look at people that passes by, television characters, people that argue, shouting at each other, looking at couples, young and old relationships... No one surrenders anymore. Surrendering is now shameful, has become a sign of weakness, failure, loss of independence. Maybe too many WWII stories of Japanese soldiers for which becoming a prisoner was the ultimate shame, the kamikaze, the very polite new rule of war made by the Geneva Convention, maybe the behaviour of quite a few recent captors. But somehow, when I recall my game, it never crossed my mind, when becoming captive, that I was less than my captors, we were all equals regardless of our warring status. That was the case for many centuries in a lot of conflicts. This is now lost and it is no surprise, that the war on terror is not working, because it is not a war... it is just terror, from both parties. There is no equality, just disdain... for life.

Maybe it is that never explained proverb "all is fair in love and war". I don't know how old it is, but it comes across as a very recent one. Not surrendering, invoking independence, is a lie as it has nothing to do with independence and all with suspicion. You are suspicious of the person you claim to love and it is on that basis, that you promise to build an everlasting relationship. Independence and suspicion go hand in hand nowadays.

And yet... you surrender every day. You do it! You surrender when you sign that employment contract, when you press "I Agree" on your phone to accept Google's or Apple's EULA, or that app you bought, that Vodafone price plan, that train ticket, you do it every day hundreds of times... and why? Just like in my childhood game... you assume that you are an equal, that you will be treated fairly, that those entities are intrinsically trustworthy. But if it is your partner, the tax man, the police, the Chancellor, oh no, they cannot be trusted. "(S)He cannot be trusted", how many times do you hear this every day applied to a relationship? No, for us the words of Winston Churchill will always resound in our ears:

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!

I much prefer the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince:

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean... tame?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"To establish ties?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....” 

So next time you start a new relationship (and statistically that will be a sure bet), when getting into that stage you need to utter the words "Do you love me?" just ask instead:

"Do you surrender?"

And if there is an answer... just go.


  1. Ah Paulinho, brilhante! Completamente "surrendida" :-) Beijos


Post a Comment