This didn’t really fit with what I had to say about Roth’s Weights and Measures, but it seemed so apposite to our own times that I felt I had to quote it anyway:
The county courts of this region had a lot to do. There were, for instance, certain types of men who allowed themselves to be slapped, voluntarily and with relish. They possessed the great art of provoking other men who, for one reason or another, were ill disposed towards them, until they received a slap in the face. Whereupon they went to the local doctor. He confirmed that they had been injured, and, sometimes, that they had lost a tooth. This was known a a ‘visum rapport’. Whereupon they sued. They received justice and damages. And on this they lived for years.
The details may change, but people don’t. Slaps to the face aren’t so common anymore, but the county courts of my and many other regions remain very busy…
This section, where Roth speaks of a desperately poor family, also remains true but is less comic:
And yet they still managed to live, despite everything – for God helps the poor. He bestows a little compassion on the rich, so that from time to time one of them comes and buys something which he does not need and which he will throw away in the street.
As Billie Holiday sang:
Rich relations give crust of bread and such
You can help yourself but don’t take too much
The Babylonians would have recognised the truth of that…