“The history of the Middle Ages is filled with examples of prominent people fulfilling pledges that would seem ridiculous to us. In many cases, the actions proposed involved no objective connection to any benefit other than a vivid demonstration of the importance those undertaking them placed on the vow itself. Among the common vows: to keep one eye closed, to eat and drink only when standing, and to become a self-imposed cripple by entering a one-person chain gang. There was a widespread custom of wearing painful foot irons. If today you saw someone struggling along the street in a heavy leg iron, you would probably assume that he was insane, not that he was a man of great virtue.
... people in the future who look back at the era of the nation-state will find some of the undertakings done in the twentieth century in the name of citizenship as ludicrous as we consider self-flagellation. From the vantage point of the Information Society, the spectacle of soldiers in the modern period traveling halfway around the world to entertain death out of loyalty to the nation-state will come to be seen as grotesque and silly.”