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Many ancient religions place value on dying in combat. For example, in Norse mythology, only those slain in battle are able to enter Valhalla.

In this alternate universe, a the population of a small European country (population around 3 million) still strongly holds this belief. However, after the world wars there are not really wars in the immediate area. Due to the media attention many have realized war is hell, especially modern warfare. They also realize there can be incredible benefits to being friends with ones neighbors rather than at war with them all the time.

The population still strongly believes that combat is necessary for a place in the afterlife.

How would you build a society to maximize the number of people dying in combat without harming the economy, innocents, foreign relations, or visitors from other countries that might not share their belief?

Note that it's been a while since WWII so over time many approaches could have been tried. As the societal climate changed the method might have osculated between hard violence because that is glorious and more "technically counts" approaches at times where the generals opinions drifted the other way. Eventually, they might completely resolve the conflict and stop altogether.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 20, 2023 at 14:29

15 Answers 15

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Gladiatorial combat

When someone approaches retirement age but is still healthy enough to carry a weapon, they go to a coliseum and fight other senior citizens to the death. And if they win, they fight another one and another until they lose. Those who are particularly good fighters and don't find a worthy opponent among their peers might have the honor to fight a duel with a professional young gladiator who will (hopefully) best them and send them off to Valhalla. And should they win against that gladiator as well, they can have his job until they have a bad day and someone finally manages to kill them.

Watching grandpa and grandma having their glorious death in the arena could be an important event for all their friends and family.

Does it harm the economy? Organizing the fights and paying the running cost of the coliseum will cost money. But an afternoon in the arena is going to be a lot cheaper than decades of consuming retirement funds, healthcare and elderly care. So from a purely economic standpoint it's probably a much better solution when people kill each other before they become a net-negative for the economy.

Does it harm innocents? Everyone who enters the arena does so voluntarily, and they do so with the intention to not survive the event. So no. The only bad blood that could come from it could be someone dishonoring their family by not fighting well enough.

Does it harm foreign relations? Other nations could see this custom as barbaric, but in the end it's an internal matter that doesn't affect them, so they have no reason to intervene.

Does it harm visitors from other countries? Heck, it could even be a tourist attraction (if the presence of uninvited outsiders is culturally appropriate).

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 18, 2023 at 14:46
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Election by combat

Possibly a bit of an out-there idea, but the whole political system in this country could be based upon combat rather than voting. If one wants to make a change to how the country is run, one could gather a following and enter battle against the current ruling party. The victor gets to rule.

It is common for older people to be set in their ways, and hold on to their older beliefs. This will almost always put them on the defending end, and allow them to lose when their life has run its course. If a young person agrees with them, they could join the defenders as well. There will never be a shortfall of discontent people, so the country will be in perpetual civil war. Especially if the fighting is considered honourable, people will always be able to join a side.

This will result in a constantly changing political climate where popular policies will be defended often, and unpopular ones toppled quickly by the majority. Many a death will be gloriously found in battle either way, and it will serve an actual cause rather than a near-meaningless ritualistic one.

The battles themselves don't have to be big. They could be regulated and highly gladiatorial. Just as long as they is always an option for whomever wants to participate.

Why I think this approach is viable:

  • It allows people to enter at any time, not just be a case of "You're too old now, you can die."
  • It gives meaning to the deaths, rather than a meaningless ritual that is no more than glorified euthanasia.
  • It allows for battles on any scale, from individual duels to whole field battles where needed.
  • It allows the country to have great outside relations, while still having the option for combat.
  • It allows for the belief that war with other countries is bad, but fighting in combat is glorious. As long as it's done internally.
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    $\begingroup$ "It allows the country to have great outside relations" - especially with those countries who are able and willing to motivate, train and equip the supporters of policies that benefit them. Or possibly even pay some professional political mercenaries who are willing to fight for any political cause as long as the money is good. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Feb 17, 2023 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ I would also wonder at the barrier between the arena and the street. What exactly stops vested parties from engaging in real civil war, assassinations, etc? Nevertheless, an interesting idea. +1 $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Feb 17, 2023 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @fredsbend what is to stop them? Same thing as any other society. Why plan an assassination against a massive security detail if you can just do it legally with enough power? $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Feb 17, 2023 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ This kinda reminds me of a comment made in the book all quiet on the western front that one of the maincharacters had joked that wars could be world leaders in drawers fighting it out with rubber clubs in a ticketed gladiatorial spectacle. Instead of that, in this country there could be dedicated matches like shown in the anime Irregular of Magic Highschool except that those matches would be fights to the death on a pre-prepared battlefield. $\endgroup$
    – Harry Mu
    Feb 18, 2023 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielSchepler well that, of course, would make for a good story. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Feb 18, 2023 at 7:50
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Export Mercenaries/PMCs for 'Peace' Missions

In the world today, there are many battlefields where a wide consensus in the international community (but not total unanimity) would support the deployment of properly trained, properly led peace enforcement mission. Nobody in 'the West' wants to deploy their own citizens to die in Yemen, or in the Congo, or Haiti. But they might subsidize PMCs from your fictional country.

There is the question if suicidal berserkers are the right troops for that, but perhaps the right culture and social expectations might help. The religious doctrine demands death in combat only, social consensus demands death in a good cause defending innocents. Citizens who lived to a good middle age, still fit but starting to decline, can volunteer for their 'final deployment.' They form their own squads or platoons in the companies, and get called in whenever a heroic death in combat would support the mission.

So the expeditionary forces of this country have established a reputation for getting the job done, relatively cheaply because they can substitute courage/casualties for heavy armor and medevac aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ This would be a great addition to the other answers, for the segment of the population that believes more strongly in the "spirit" of the rule $\endgroup$
    – mousetail
    Feb 17, 2023 at 16:27
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Turn the combat into a ritual, where the soon to be dead person performs the ritualized combat and goes toward their death as a rite of passage.

Think of something like a capoeira dance, leaning more toward the dance than the actual combat. For a bystander not in the known, it would look just like another bizarre ritual. For the practitioner, it will be a good way to die.

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  • $\begingroup$ This offers a metaphoric response. Very good. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Feb 17, 2023 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ It's not very valorous though. The gods want blood. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2023 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not going to downvote this answer, because I don't like to DV - but I think this is fundamentally wrong - The glory in combat is from the ever-present risk of Death. Dancing is not heroic, because no one dies. The gods would see this and would be angry with such blatant fakery. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2023 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord Maybe you've not studied much religion? This is plenty believable as a modern "reformist" idea of an ancient and barbaric dogma. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Feb 17, 2023 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord Without a temple and sacrifices, Jews still have a Seder. Literally "reform" Jews do much very differently. Without immersion and even without water Catholics will baptize. Medieval practices have come and gone, while "meaning, sacrifice, and merit to God" are all still argued to exist in the modern rites. Maybe you would be a stickler, but plenty of people obviously wouldn't, as evidenced in real religions throughout the ages. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Feb 17, 2023 at 23:29
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The first real problem is defining what "death by combat" actually means. Obviously, if Joe got stabbed or shot by an enemy combatant and immediately died from his wounds, Joe died in battle. What if Joe was stabbed and died from sepsis two weeks later, does that count? If it wasn't a human but an animal that Joe was fighting, would that count? What if Joe were not actively fighting, but was shot by a sniper?

With the right definitions, it turns out that most deaths can be declared a battle; heart disease and cancer are already called "fights", so it's an easy step from there to calling cancer and heart disease enemies. If dying to an animal counts, then perhaps dying to a viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection should also count.

Beyond that, however, you have sudden deaths, like tripping and falling, or dying in an automobile accident; in this case, you could go for the long shot and preemptively declare war on gravity and hard surfaces, just to be safe. When Grandma dies after a nasty fall down the stairs, she was killed by an enemy combatant. Avenge her by replacing that bit of carpet at the top of the stairs!

However, not everyone will take the admittedly liberal stance of "cancer and gravity are enemy combatants." The solution is a simple one: a battle to the death. In the old days, if grandpa was feeling old and weak, he could challenge some strong swordsman to a fight to the death, and would usually lose. Grandpa goes to Valhalla, everyone is happy. These days, though, there are a lot fewer swordsmen around, and not all of them would accept a challenge from a frail old geezer.

Instead, today, people would undergo a virtual challenge, one that nonetheless results in their death. In the case of surgeries or other operations that could result in death, as part of the paperwork, the patient declares a battle with the surgeon; if the surgery fails, the patient has lost the battle. If someone is sick, old, or otherwise on the verge of death, they are hooked up to a machine. The machine is a simple battle; they press a button to "attack", and if they fail to attack before a timer counts down, the machine (the enemy) injects them with something that knocks you out and kills you, painlessly and quickly. The battle rages on until either the patient recovers (in which case the machine is removed), or the patient loses.

Finally, a part of every emergency medical staff's toolkit is a (blunt) knife and a sword. Just before declaring time of death, the EMT will shove the knife into the patient's hand, yell, "He's got a knife!", and run him through with the sword. Just in case.

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    $\begingroup$ Applicable and amusing arguments re what an honourable death in combat is in Order of the Stick giantitp.com/comics/oots1170.html $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ "However, not everyone will take the admittedly liberal stance of "cancer and gravity are enemy combatants." Yes, if religion in the real world has taught one thing, it's that there will be schisms, and different communities with different interpretations. The "capoeira ritual" from the other answer, and the "cancer is an enemy combatant" stance, and the "actually challenge someone to a death fight when you're old and weak" stance would probably all cohabit. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Feb 20, 2023 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Another stance could be: "If you die while fighting, even if the actual cause of death is not the fight, it still counts as dying in combat". So, many citizens would be registered as reserve personnel in the army, and the country could be officially at war against something, so that all citizens who are reserve personnel would access Valhalla no matter their cause of death. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Feb 20, 2023 at 16:49
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This is a slight frame challenge: What happens to women?

In medieval societies, even those as egalitarian as the Vikings, most women did not die in battle. They died of age if they were lucky (just like the men) or of childbirth if they weren't. (For this reason, there was, in fact, a third afterlife in Norse mythology, headed by Freya, for those who didn't die in battle but still died honorably, but I digress.)

But in the society that you built, what happens to women? Some of them might train up to become soldiers, but many would stay in the home, bearing children and running the household. They and their husbands would want them to go to Valhalla, so how do we get around this? Easy: recast childbirth as a glorious battle! It's not that hard, childbirth is excruciatingly painful and the result, if successful, is a glory worthy of Valhalla! It also takes care of all the babies who don't survive the process: they died in the first battle anyone fights, the fight to be alive!

Then of course there's the fact that most people who died in battle (including the battle of childbirth) didn't actually die in battle, they died of diseases contracted during it. What of them? Easy: the disease is the result of a terrible demon of Hel, trying to take you before you can die gloriously! Unfortunately for her, the gods have decreed this fight itself is a glorious battle worthy of Valhalla! Take that, Hel! With this mindset, the Black Plague is Hel and her forces fighting dirty and attacking civilians. And with that precedent set, all outbreaks of disease become glorious battles in their own right.

As medicine evolves and gives us better tools to both defend and fight against these "demons of Hel", many others might get folded into this. Cancer? A demon of Hel has taken a particular grudge against you and declared a duel to the death! Depression? Everyone knows the quickest way to disband an army is to crush its morale! Syphilis? An insidious campaign to destroy the very thing that Hel abhors the most! By the time the World Wars roll around, so many diseases have been recast as "glorious battles" that adding simple old age to the list wouldn't bat an eye.

It may cause a lot of posturing to "cure" it among the people in charge, though. After all, there can't be a glorious battle if there's no battle, now can there?

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  • $\begingroup$ It's the 21st century... Why can't the women fight in war just like the men... $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottishTapWater The point of this answer is that in the Middle Ages most women are confined to the home, and powerful women and the men married to them campaigned to have childbirth considered a battle, which then carried over to the modern day. I even explicitly mention that women had the option to train up as soldiers even back then, and some of them did, but it simply isn't practical to have every woman train up as a soldier. Or every man for that matter, and the point of this society is that everyone must die in glorious battle, not just the soldiers $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Feb 18, 2023 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, but the question is tagged with modern-age. Even if we expand it to any sort of ritualised combat, there's no reason to expect women should or would be treated differently $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottishTapWater Did you not see the "this is a slight frame challenge" bit? And nowhere did I say that women couldn't train up as soldiers, just that they didn't on average, back when the precedent was set. $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Feb 19, 2023 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ I would hope so... Equal rights, equal lefts... I would allow for death during childbirth too, it's not a bad shout mind, it's more the rest of the framing I felt irrelevant. I also think extending death in combat to death by disease (if not a direct result of the combat) is a stretch... Nobody actually dies of old age... It's a disease of some description that eventually takes you out $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2023 at 1:15
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The Old Warrior Accepts an Impossible quest

When the Warrior reaches a certain age and are still alive - they decide to undertake an Impossible quest. One where the outcome is almost certain Death (We'll get to that in a minute).

It would start with a Living Funeral, The relatives come and celebrate their life, say nice things, wills are read and property dispersed.

The Warrior then reads aloud what the quest will be and why they expect to die. Could be to go hunt a Lion with just bare hands, could be to go take on the organized crime syndicate, could be a pedophile ring - the point is there is always Evil in the world for good people to confront.

Then the Warrior sets off - the Relatives believe that the warrior is already dead...

And in most cases they are - they have gone to meet their gods with a blade in their hand, a warcry in their throats and the fury in their hearts.

Honor is maintained and a place in Valhalla is assured...

Except in some exceptional instances, they survive and actually complete their task. This is rare - but is a cause for celebration - an Evil in this world has been vanquished - however the Old Warrior who accepted this Death Quest has survived.

This is where it gets interesting - one possibility is that they keep accepting Death Quests until they die - but that's kinda lame.

They believe that in facing certain death, not fleeing or flinching and coming out victorious is guarantee of a place in Valhalla. These special few are honored by the Government and then they take part in ritual combat - It is unlikely they will survive as they will be outnumbered by members of the Military - but should they refuse to die - they are allowed to grow old.

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Ban cars

Everyone is gonna have to use public transport. Cars cause too many deaths, and you can't risk the loss of the afterlife with that. If someone dies in a car accident, they're not dying in glorious combat with an enemy.

Have routine heart check ups and free healthcare

You don't want someone dying quickly because of a heart failure. You generally want to have a lot of health awareness. You don't want to risk anyone getting a disease that would stop them dying an honourable death. If the disease gets too far, they risk their death being miscategorized.

Have strong health and safety regulations

Accidents happen, especially in our modern industrial economy. If someone gets sliced in half by a factory machine, they're not dying in combat. You want very firm regulations to ensure factories are safe, unlike the blood red blades of our enemies.

Have meaningful combat for the elderly.

The big risk with a lot of the other approaches is the gods won't see it as valid combat. If you have a gladiator arena, is that really combat, or just a mock training? You need real combat that matters.

As such, make the provision of public services dependent on combat and raids. Give each family and community a flag, or several, and arrange capture the flag fights for those who are old enough or sick enough to be at risk of death.

Want to get a pothole fixed, or a regulation changed to help your clan? Then die gloriously in combat, and you can tell Odin that you fought for your people, you raided and died honourably for your people.

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Redefine what "combat" means.

This may not work for the story you're working on, but my immediate instinct is that a tension like this would like be solved by society broadly redefining what the word "combat" means, exactly. Here are a few options off the top of my head:

  1. Combat becomes a symbolic funereal ritual. This echoes the answer by @L.Dutch, of course. As models, consider: martial arts that evolve to become merely sporting, theatrical performance, or exercise; e.g., Tai Chi. Or the kirpan sword that Khalsa Sikhs are obligated to wear; in some places this becomes merely symbolic, e.g. NYC public schools permit them if glued in the sheath, which most people for practical purposes would consider non-dangerous. One could imagine the priest giving last rites or the funeral director making a mock pin-prick or something, and declaring that to suffice.

  2. Combat can be against abstract concepts. It is in reality quite common to use war as a metaphor, e.g., consider existing phrases such as a "customs war", "trade war", "war on crime", etc. One could say that a particular person devoted their professional life to combating a problem, a competitor's business, a disease, etc., and in so spending their life, has succeeded in reaching the end of it while in combat. (N.B., I'm borrowing this idea from the 1980's RPG Star Frontiers, where this idea is a prominent part of the culture of the Yazirian alien race.)

  3. Combat is considered to be open-ended. When exactly is a person "in" combat, and when does it exactly end, anyway? Is it exactly when the blow is struck, when the threat abides, a certain distance away, after a rest/recovery period, etc.? The culture may evolve to say that as long as you can remember a combat, then you're still mentally/spiritually "in" it. Say everyone is obligated to military duty for a year at a young age, and at least engages in hand-to-hand training or boxing or something. Then they are encouraged to reflect/meditate on that on a weekly basis, say. So we are "in" a spiritual state of combat perpetually, and satisfy the requirement at whatever the time of death is. Compare to the Marxist/Trotskyist concept of the permanent revolution.

  4. Combat means something very different than we normally think. An argument from etymology: the word "combat" comes from the Latin com, "with, together", and batuere, "to beat, strike". So we argue it literally means "to strike together", i.e., in a team jointly. We direct people to go out in pairs and break rocks, beat a dirty rug, or attend a bowling league on a weekly basis, and you are so considered to be in a state of grace. This dictum even serves to build teams and communities, so there is some practical social value in it.

I'm sure there are many other ways this re-interpretation could happen.

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Government-issued assassination

The authorities send mobs of “death officers” to track down people over 50 and kill them. Knowing their part, the victim, sorry, patient, resists, and so ends up dying in battle. This is also a great way to keep the population down, but that’s definitely not the point…at least that’s what the officials say.

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    $\begingroup$ Oh this would save a lot of money on retirement funds, nice $\endgroup$
    – mousetail
    Feb 17, 2023 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Feb 17, 2023 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ "Runner! Erm... walker!" (I can say that, being old.) $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2023 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ @mousetail this makes no sense: the retirement funds are payed by workers. And, surely in the event where you know you'll die at 50, you'd want to enjoy a bit of free time before that, and so would claim you pension at 45. $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Feb 18, 2023 at 14:43
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Make it a one-sided ritual

Similar to @LDutch and #1 from Daniel R.Collins, make it a ritual. But only from the aspect of the attacker/social worker, not from the elder. The elder is meant to attempt his very best to kill his attacker, while his social worker is young and healthy and paid to kill the elder. He is trained to basically toy with the elder, letting him attack, giving him every opportunity to do damage, and in turn doing superficial damage to the elder to satisfy entry requirements. This continues until the limit that the local belief system requires for the entry into Valhalla, at which point the social worker finishes off the elder in a final blow.

So basically, the social worker IS going to kill the elder; that's already been contracted. The elder can get up and fight for his entry into Valhalla, or he can lay there. So as far as the elder is concerned, this is real and his immortal soul rests on the outcome.

The elder may die of heart failure or something during this, but that means they've put in enough effort to be true combat (and that someone in the main office waited too long to get the contract set up). The elder may also kill the social worker, but that's rare. When it does happen, the social worker is assumed to have screwed up (unless the elder is some legendary warrior, whose already killed several social workers before or something, in which case the agency starts sending more than one at a time), but still was killed in combat and will continue to Valhalla (and be laughed at by the other warriors most likely).

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Moral cruscade. Choose a mafia group or crime group and people will fight them.

There's always somebody to fight. In every country you have car thieves, bicycle thieves, illegal drug dealers, illegal pimps, annoying neighbors, welfare frauds, people who feed pigeons in urban areas, people who don't pick up their dogs crap etc. People will simply fight whoever they consider bad or annoying.

When the nation becomes morally crystal clear due to natural selection, look at other countries. There's always a country with slavery, high carbon footprint, authoritarian leaders, corrupt officials, violence against children, or at least polluted air. So, people go there as tourists, acquire weapons and fight anybody who does something wrong.

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Breed wolves, big cats, or an invasive wild predator species, and let the elderly "fight" them when necessary.

The big problem with trying to setup combat to have elderly people fight each other, or others, is the availability of people to be in the fights, and for gladiatorial fights, organizing an audience, or a referee. If the person's heart is failing early on, or their liver is failing, ideally they can get to a hospital, but...what if they don't have that time? Or they get to the hospital, and are going to be terminal?

Enter life's natural gladiators; predators.

Humans breed dogs, cats, and all sorts of animals as pets, support animals, or as food sources; but what if we train animals to be wild predators, and train them to go after humans?

Well...we probably want them to be caged up, so they don't harm children growing up, but if we fence them off, and provide a gate of access to them, we could provide Instant Gladiator Arenas, Just Add Human!

Bonuses here:

  1. You only have to have one human harmed at a time, and it'd be the one that wants to go to Valhalla right now - none of those "Post battle injuries" to heal up, freeing a lot of the medical staff;
  2. The breeders don't need to be keeping that close an eye on the predators - only that they don't leave their cage, and that they're fed well enough to survive, but not enough to not snack on humans that wonder into their cage;
  3. With the right packaging, you could have people in retirement rent one on their property until the moment they're really sure they won't make it.

You might even set-up an Instant Gladiator Arena right outside a hospital; that way, should the person start to abruptly flat-line, they can be shuffled out of the hospital, and left near the cage - instant combat scenario, DNR-approved! (Probably not doctor approved, given the Hippocratic Oath, but hospital administration might approve it, or palliative care.)

This could be so useful, that you could export it to other countries, perhaps in your countries' embassies; for those retirement individuals who want to go travelling the world, but still wish to "Die in combat."; You might want to keep a closer eye on who specifically is entering the Instant Gladiator Arenas there, though, to prevent international incidents.

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  • $\begingroup$ You don't really need to breed those things much. Just have the elders face a boar alone with a melee weapon. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    Feb 21, 2023 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MakorDal: Originally I was thinking "Just breed them, then let them be wild" - but it occurred to me that wasn't quite as good at "On the spot" care. This way, they can be more of a portable "First Aid Kit" approach of things. You'd want to make sure these things are willing to attack humans when necessary, but not when they're wanting to live longer and safely. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2023 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's exactly the thing with boars. Those beasts are vicious and determined fighters, as soon as provoked. Most European countries have structures in place to cull the herds because it can make a lot of damages. In Geneva, Switzerland, they forbid hunting, but started paying incentives for forest rangers for each felled board a few years later. There are other systems in place in other countries. That's to say : those things are dangerous, endemic and their culling is needed for farming to work. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    Mar 20, 2023 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @MakorDal: My main concern with that is that it requires someone close to death to be near enough to a herd of boars; some people might not have been as lucky to be within their walking distance when their time is enclosing on them. By breeding them and keeping them in cages/gladiatorial-cages, you can bring them in an ambulance, or people bring them with them on vacation, or in remote areas, without needing to be locked down to a specific location. $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2023 at 1:27
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This is a slight frame challenge.

A society that abhors war can't have people dying in combat by the truckload, at some point that's just war by a different name. You mention that you're "trying to find a reasonably compromise" and so here's one.

The population still strongly believes that combat is necessary for a place in the afterlife.

What if, rather than dying in combat, the requirement was living in combat?

And I don't mean surviving a deathmatch, I mean your culture could have a rich and essentially religious tradition of martial arts.

Some martial arts are heavily ritualised. Sumo for instance is more than a sport, it includes ritual Shinto elements and there is a heavy spiritual element to traditional sumo.

Your culture could have developped its own martial art, and derived spiritual elements from their original belief about death in combat. But in more modern times, rather than dying, their spirit is consecrated through a bout of combat. Win or lose, live or die, what matters is they participate earnestly.

Fighting could be a rite of passage. It could be part of the curriculum, a cross between physical education and a religious course. Pupils would learn the discipline, the rituals, the history, and the meaning of it all, and at a later age they would learn to fight, and be expected at some point to participate in a big festive tournament.

In that context, those who insist on dying by combat would be fundamentalists, and would be abhorred, because, as you might say, fighting to the death is hell.

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Geriatric patients Combat

Instead of euthanasia and dying peacefully, the standard has become that old people or those with terminal illnesses engage in regular lethal competitive combat. They will all die eventually in these combats as they get beat up. Everyone wins, including the health care system.

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