Monday, April 06, 2009

Old proverbs, new circumstances

"There is an old Turkish proverb: ‘You cannot put out fire with flames.’" That was a line from President Obama's speech in Turkey today. It caught my ear because I immediately thought to myself, "but wait . . . that's how they put out oil well fires." We have seen plenty of those in the wake of the first Gulf War. Such fires are extinguished by an exposion which consumes all the available oxygen, thus putting out the fire. Perhaps there is a new proverb in that.

It is easy enough to see the point of the proverb, which is the maxim that more violence does not necessarily stop violence (think of gang wars or the Balkans). Of course, sometimes it does (think of the Nazi concentration camps), but a proverb is a wisdom statement that is not always or even necessarily true. Rather, it "rings true"; there is practical value in the assertion made.

It caught my attention because it is an old proverb that had been outmoded by technology. I wonder how often that occurs. I was trying to come up with other examples, but cannot think of any at the moment. Can you?

1 comment:

FrGregACCA said...

Actually, the Turkish proverb has been incorrect for quite some time: one tactic in supressing wildfires, such as forest fires, involves setting controlled backfires in order to create control lines, in which all combustible material is consumed. When the wildfire reaches the line, there is nothing left to burn.